A bland adventure fantasy, Alice in Wonderland may be pretty to look at, yet offers nothing more than Tim Burton’s now generic and uninspired brand of filmmaking.
It is a shame, since there was once a time when Tim Burton was known as an innovative filmmaker of original vision and credibility.
Now the once reliable director has become nothing more than a clog in the machine of remakes and redo’s, with his Alice in Wonderland (an adaptation / sequel to the Lewis Carroll novels) the latest interpretation of someone else’s material to be given the Burton makeover (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, etc).
The film begins 13 years after Alice’s return from Wonderland, convincing herself that her adventure was all a dream.
Approaching womanhood, the eccentric outcast of the aristocrat crowd is doomed to marry a soddy pratt with bad digestion, until she once again falls down the rabbit hole and is thrust into a journey of destiny to topple the tyrannical Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and thrust into power the peaceful and graceful White Queen (Anne Hathaway).
Cast in the iconic role of Alice is photogenic Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, who has made a name for herself as a dramatic actress in TV drama In Treatment and independent films such as That Evening Sun. Yet in such big budget fair, Wasikowska is lost amidst the green screen backdrop and amongst her wacky co-stars, turning in a dour performance void of the wonder and spirit needed to make it work.
It is the supporting cast that keeps this Alice in Wonderland partially interesting. And while Johnny Depp does not disappoint with his schizophrenic, Scot / English interpretation of The Madhatter, it is that other Burton cohort Helena Bonham Carter who steals the show as the prissy and ill tempered Red Queen, whose collection of severed heads is almost as impressive as her vast range of animals posing as furniture (a pig as a foot rest is a high light).
Yet for all of the hard work the films impressive cast of supporting players put into the film, in the end Alice in Wonderland is a by the numbers Burton production.
Burton knows how to make a good looking fantasy film, just not an exciting or interesting one. As soon as Alice –and indeed we – venture into Burton’s CGI wonderland, it is clear that a lot of money has been invested into the look of this film, with some aspects of this SFX (in particular its character design) simply spectacular, while others are shoddily synthetic and which will show in time.
It is also clear that here is a filmmaker who has reached the limit in what was thought to be an unlimited imagination.
How did one of Hollywood’s great visionaries become so stale? Is it the big budgets and reliance on computer graphics? Is it the dependence on the same cast and crew for every picture? Or, has the lack of original stories in Hollywood forced Burton to look elsewhere for artistic inspiration?
Instead, Burton should look at Terry Gilliam for inspiration. He is a filmmaker of similar vision, yet his struggle to get films made the way he wants them brings with it a sense of passion and hard work on the screen.
With Alice in Wonderland as an example, it seems that the worst thing that could of happened to someone of Burton’s talent and stature – he has become complacent in his approach to film. It is time to shake things up.